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ARTICLE: Weavers of Happiness
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 04:25

Weavers of Happiness

Tucked around 230 kilometers from Bhopal are a group of traditional weavers whose sleight in making hand-woven silk and cotton sarees is unputdownable. The Chanderi sarees of Madhya Pradesh have created waves in the world of fashion by alluring the customers with its pleasant colours and spectacular designs. But the creators of the Chanderi sarees have been facing problems because of the non-availability of working capital, non-availability of suitable and reliable market linkages, bleak prospects of wage sustainability, and also because of their own inability to come up with bulk orders.

Paying heed to the matter, the Government adopted a cluster approach for a focused development of the handloom weavers. For this purpose, the Office of Development Commissioner – Handlooms under the Ministry of Textiles embraced 20 pilot clusters from 12 states of the country. The Chanderi cluster was also identified under the Integrated Handloom Development Scheme.

As a first step towards the development of the cluster, the weavers from Chanderi were formed into Self-Help Groups. The groups were given the exposure of exhibitions and sale to help them understand production to marketing cycle. They also understood that this process of participation of each SHG with similar designs and limited resources is very expensive and realised the need for pooling the resources of SHGs.

To allay their fears and doubts, the weavers were then convinced to form a federation. After numerous discussions, they finalised to register a federation as a Producer Company Limited. A company in the name of Chanderi Handlooms Cluster Development Producer Company was registered on May 29, 2008 with 10 initial members. The news of the formation of a company spread like fire as other groups/stakeholders showed interest in joining it. Immediately after registration, five directors were given responsibilities such as looking into design development; planning the production, monitoring and quality control; marketing; and, coordination, legal formalities with various departments.

The directors of the Company then drew a business plan for the Company for the first year, wherein they decided to adopt 60-70 looms with 40-50 specialised designs with a collection of around 400-500 sarees a month. Eventually, the number of looms was increased to 100 with a collection of 1000 sarees a month in 75 different designs. The looms which were roped in were categorised on the basis of skill level of the weaver, the ability of the weaver to weave intricate designs, among other factors. A sales and marketing team was also developed which led the weavers to participate in various events. Apart from these events, capacity building programmes were also organised from time to time.

All these developments boosted the confidence of the weavers, with the Company producing sarees and dress materials worth Rs. 30 lakhs in its first year of operation. During 2008-09, the Company, apart from giving a 20 per cent wage increase to the weavers, also provided 40 per cent as dividend to its shareholders. During 2009-10, the Company continued with the same wage increment figure, but increased the dividend up to 60 per cent. Along with positive news on the financial side, the Company also created its own identity by producing sarees and dress materials with new designs and lured customers who were interested for non-traditional stuff as well. The marketing efforts by the team members fructified in tie-ups with the likes of Lifestyles, Central Cottage Industries Corporation, Ranjana Fabrics, Tahiliani Designs, and many more.

The formation of the Company made the weavers feel confident that they too can run business with good profit. On the other hand, with the increase in wages by the Company, the weavers also started asking for better wages from the master weavers. This forced the master weavers to slightly increase the wages of the weavers. Apart from it, the younger generation is also showing interest in joining the company as they find better opportunities for themselves in such structure. This is evident from the fact that a large number of requests is coming from young weavers. Increased awareness has also led to almost 100 per cent weavers availing health insurance facilities.

In this way, the weavers of Chanderi have spun weaves of happiness.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 March 2013 05:40